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CASH CARDS: TELL YOUR PC TO FILL 'ER UP

CAN YOUR COMPUTER DOUBLE as an automated teller machine (ATM)--giving you access to cash whenever you need it? Well, sort of. The first step is widespread acceptance of ``smart cards'' such as the ones announced on Apr. 17 by Visa International and MasterCard International Inc. These ``stored value'' cards can hold electronic ``cash'' that is transferred over a network from a holder's account. Smart-card holders can then use the cash cards to pay for items at participating vendors equipped with smart-card readers.

Later this year, Visa and MasterCard will distribute 50,000 cards to New Yorkers, who will be able to start downloading ``cash'' onto a smart card from specially equipped ATMs.

SCM Microsystems, a maker of PC add-in cards in Los Gatos, Calif., is ready to take the system to the next step: letting you ``refill'' your cash card using your personal computer. SCM has announced SwapSmart, a $199 smart-card reader that fits in a PC Card (formerly known as PCMCIA) slot, the same slots found on almost every laptop for attaching peripherals such as modems. The idea, says Nicholas Efthymiou, SCM's vice-president for sales and marketing, is that such a device will let consumers with an appropriate home-banking connection transfer money from their bank accounts to the smart card using a home PC equipped with a SwapSmart reader. In the meantime, SCM is working to develop other applications, such as smart-card-based security systems.

EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG


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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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